Sochi Update (the Games Have Already Begun)

Looks like the IOC is going Full Bureaucrat CYA concerning Russia’s anti-LGBT laws:

The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday reaffirmed to the Washington Blade it will not allow athletes who compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics to publicly challenge Russia’s gay propaganda to minors ban during the games.

The IOC referred the Blade to a portion of the Olympic Charter adopted in 2001 that states “no form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by the athletes or other participants in the Olympic Games” outside of a manufacturer’s logo.

“This rule has been in place for many years and aims to separate sport from politics, honor the context of the Olympic games and ensure the peaceful gathering of athletes from over 200 nations, officials and spectators from all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds,” the IOC told the Blade in a statement. “By its nature, the Olympic games cannot become a platform for any kind of demonstration and the IOC will not accept any proactive gesture that could harm their spirit and jeopardize their future.”

The Olympic Charter further states any athlete who violates the aforementioned rule could face disqualification or loss of their accreditation at the Sochi games….

Emphasis mine. Politics, never; advertising money, hell yes!

The vague centrist hopes that Russia would “bend” their anti-LGBT laws to salvage the Sochi 2014 games are doomed to disappointment. Via commentor OriGuy:

MOSCOW (AP) — Pole vault great Yelena Isinbayeva condemned homosexuality Thursday after criticizing fellow competitors who painted their fingernails in rainbow colors to support gays and lesbians in the face of a new anti-gay law in Russia.

The Russian, who won her third world title Tuesday in front of a boisterous home crowd, came out in favor of the law which has drawn sharp criticism and led Western activists to call for a boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi….

Isinbayeva said it was wrong for the Swedes to make such a statement while competing in Russia.

“It’s unrespectful to our country. It’s unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands,” Isinbayeva told reporters. “We have our home and everyone has to respect (it). When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules.”…

Isinbayeva is to serve as “mayor” of one of the Olympic villages in Sochi and is an ambassador for the Youth Olympics.

Sochi organizing committee spokeswoman Svetlana Bobrova said the body had no reason to comment on Isinbayeva’s statements.

“We like her and she is the mayor of the Olympic village,” Bobrova told the AP….

The people responsible for enforcing the law sure aren’t backing down:

Russia’s Interior Ministry, which controls the police force, confirmed Monday that the country’s controversial anti-gay law will be enforced during the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Confusion has reigned over how the country intends to act during the February 7-23 Winter Games after President Vladimir Putin signed legislation in June that bans the promotion of homosexuality to minors. The International Olympic Committee first claimed it had received assurances from top government officials that Sochi 2014 athletes and guests will not be affected, prompting Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko to insist no one is exempt from the law. “The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbor a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully,” said an Interior Ministry statement issued on Monday.

Via Dan Savage, Nancy Goldstein at The American Prospect:

Think long and hard before you evoke the spectacle of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin—thus far the model for the West’s approach to Putin—or argue that winning LGBT athletes will “show ’em” in Sochi. In 1935—as in 2013—the International Olympics Committee was keen to pretend that sporting events could wash a clearly politicized setting of its politics, or wipe a dirty city clean. IOC chair Count Henri Baillet-Latour was content with Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s promise that anti-Semitic placards would be taken down during the Olympic games the next year.

In this Faustian bargain, Hitler hid the most obvious signs of what would later become his Final Solution. Jesse Owens, the allegedly “inferior” Negro, kicked Aryan butt on the track and came home with four gold medals (to a country where FDR refused to host him at the White House for fear of losing the Southern vote in the upcoming election). And then, once the international community had left, Hitler and his willing minions invaded neighboring countries and incinerated every fucking Jew, queer, or dissenter they could get their hands on.

Goldstein points out that the International Olympic Committee’s own charter “calls for removing the Olympic Games from any nation that does not satisfy its own requirements for equal rights and tolerance.”

Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, had a very forwarding-friendly piece in the NYTimes:

ON Sept. 10, members of the International Olympic Committee will vote for a new president for the first time in 12 years….

Now the I.O.C. is preparing to stage another Olympics in a host country that almost appears to be taunting organizers and sponsors by flagrantly flouting its pledge. Starting in 2008, Human Rights Watch has documented myriad Russian abuses associated with preparation for the Olympics. These include government harassment and intimidation of activists and journalists, abuses of migrant workers from the former Soviet bloc who are building all the major Olympic venues (including the media center) and forced evictions of some families without compensation. Some migrant workers who tried to complain have been detained.

Over the past year, Russia has also introduced repressive laws targeting certain nonprofit organizations as “foreign agents.” With raids, threats and intimidation, the crackdown has been the most severe of its kind in the post-Soviet era. Central to this campaign is a new law targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. All these efforts are at odds with the Olympic ideal, as expressed in its charter, of “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Russian authorities are apparently counting on the I.O.C. to keep quiet again.

The shame here is that the I.O.C. can and has used its considerable leverage to improve the conduct of host nations. Countries with repressive governments often seek to host the Olympics to improve their global reputation, and only the I.O.C. can make the Olympics happen. In the lead-up to the 1988 summer games in Seoul, public protests against South Korea’s military dictatorship escalated, prompting the I.O.C. to press strongly for a democratic transition… Because of bribery scandals surrounding the Atlanta Games in 1996 and Salt Lake City in 2002, it also vets corruption. There is no reason the new I.O.C. president could not issue a mandate to strictly assess the human rights records of bidding countries and monitor a selected host country’s progress toward improving that record….

Nominally a nonprofit entity, the I.O.C. is a multibillion-dollar enterprise, earning its money through franchising, television and sponsorship rights. Before another I.O.C. president is selected, the corporate sponsors who make the Olympics possible should insist that the president enforce the committee’s own rules about human rights. Unless sponsors and franchise-holders like NBC, Coca-Cola, G.E., McDonalds and Visa want to risk being associated with an officially homophobic Olympics, they must find their voices — before the next I.O.C. head is anointed.

The IOC is quite clear: They can be bought, or at least rented. Which means, IMO, if it’s too late to relocate — or cancel — the 2014 games, it’s time for the sponsors to explain that this kind of mealy-mouthed ‘opinions differ’ shuffling is not conducive to a broadcasting-positive high-dollar advertising event…

38 replies
  1. 1
    srv says:

    I fully support the Putin Olympics and hope this is the straw that breaks the back on this irrelevant, obsolete, commercial non-amateur institution.

  2. 2
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    You know…a cynical part of me wonders how much Russia is going to ride their codified homophobia to disqualify and detain athletes to eliminate competition for their national athletes. They’ve already made it clear that they think gays are second class citizens. I wouldn’t put it past them to use it as rationale for a little good old fashioned game fixing while they’re at it.

    Either way…yeah. This is a fucking debacle, and I’m honestly fucking terrified for both the gay population in Russia and any athletes who even minimally approach any sort of gay acceptance, since it’s clearly open season on all of them once the games start.

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    Red, white, and blue is gay! Team USA disqualified!

  4. 4
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:


    They’re not THAT blatant…but hey, some of those US swimmers look kind of fruity in their full swimming suits. Better detain them for the good of the children lest they get seduced into the dangerous *** lifestyle.

  5. 5
    Funkula says:

    An interesting loophole just occurred to me. What if one of the corporate sponsors, for the duration of the games, were to change their logo to incorporate a rainbow flag and/or pink triangle?

  6. 6
    SectarianSofa says:

    What a crock of shit. FIFA and the IOC should have done better picking their traveling theme park locations.

  7. 7
    bago says:

    If they weren’t wearing artificial fibers, it would be kind of rad to have a rainbow outfit on underneath a flash-paper façade, that you could burn away at a suitably dramatic moment.

  8. 8
    Billy Dilly says:

    Outside of the LGBT and the progressive communities, I don’t see a push to boycott the Russians.(Maybe it is still early with football season, Baseball Playoffs and such, before it hits the radar) Sadly there still many a homophobic bigot(Oh BTW a big FUCK YOU to those bastards who booed the disabled Marine who happened to come out) here in the states, who think what the Russians are doing is cool. I hope the momentum builds because fucking with Ivan’s cash, and maybe NBC’s might do it. Boycott Sochi! Name and Shame the sponsors!

  9. 9
    Hunter Gathers says:

    Tommie Smith and John Carlos, you have a telephone call on line 1.

  10. 10
    srv says:

    Oh, is wrestling back in or out in the Olympics?

    An Olympics w/o wrestling would be like Liberace without diamonds.

  11. 11
    gbear says:

    You know, if I was a sports clothing manufacturer who wanted to make a very popular social statement, I would introduce a line of elite-level sportswear with a rainbow-colors logo real fast.

    Saturn did it. Nike can do it too.

    I’d do it just to see the IOC squirm.

    Edit: but Funkula got there way before me…

  12. 12
    scav says:

    I’m feeling better and better about having given up on the increasing charade of the olympics. IOC and the logo / copyright pogram in London and now this stunt.

  13. 13
    SectarianSofa says:


    That would be awesome, though I wonder what kind of mad bureaucratic do-we-ban-them-or-do-we-not-ban-them dance (Discoesque?) the IOC would run through to figure out whether they should rewrite clarify their rules to prevent the rainbow logos.

  14. 14
    gbear says:

    @SectarianSofa: The Nike Swoosh could become the Nike Swish.

    I’m sorry. I just that do to it.

  15. 15
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik:

    some of those US swimmers look kind of fruity in their full swimming suits. Better detain them for the good of the children

    Well, um, Winter Games. But there’s always the ice skating….

  16. 16
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:


    Details details, don’t let reality stand in the way of a good joke, no matter how bitterly cynical it is.

    (Which perhaps adequately explains the law in the first place, barbaric joke as it is)

  17. 17
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Billy Dilly: I’m just not seeing this going anywhere. Unlike China which went through a “lets hide everything while the foreigners are around” phase, Russia is letting its flag fly.

    There are the usual subjects who have their man crushes on Putin now and, whatever. They stood for Netenyahu too and are the epitome of our shiny things right wing.

    But I don’t know if the cause for global gay rights is ready to throw its weight around for more than an awareness campaign. It can make a lot if noise, but I don’t think change is going to come about in Russia by threatening a boycott that won’t materialize.

  18. 18
    JoyfulA says:

    I haven’t supported the Olympics since the 1970s, when they forced out of business the Olympia, a little Greek restaurant at my subway stop. The Olympics owns the name, you see.

  19. 19
    patroclus says:

    I can’t wait to see what Johnny Weir does – I’m predicting a 1968 John Carlos-like moment. Russia will take Snowden, but I don’t think they’ll be able to handle Johnny.

  20. 20
    Splitting Image says:

    The main problem is that even with the gains of the past ten years or so, the vast majority of the IOC’s members are still pretty reactionary with regard to gay rights. Europe and the Americas have been progressive on this issue, but more people in fact live in Asia and Africa, which the IOC, like many other organizations, see as growing markets. Even in countries like Brazil, where civil unions are now the law of the land, there is a substantial number of people who are not on board with them. Many of them are sports fans.

    The long and the short of it is that the IOC making a ruling that restricts the right to hold the Games to countries that have embraced gay rights means restricting them to the countries that have historically dominated them when their policy over the past few decades has been to move in the other direction. FIFA has done the same thing. They want to put the Games in developing countries and that means putting them in countries where gay rights are not as highly prized as they are here.

    Leaving all that aside, the IOC has been one of the most corrupt organizations in the world for decades, and many of its members probably admire Putin as a god. I would be shocked if anything came of the call for a boycott.

  21. 21
    The Other Chuck says:


    If they weren’t wearing artificial fibers, it would be kind of fabulous to have a rainbow outfit on underneath a flash-paper façade, that you could burn away at a suitably dramatic moment.


  22. 22
    fuckwit says:

    Holy shit, the Russians have learned from the American Christian Fundamentalists and Middle-Eastern Islamic Fundamentalists how to play this goddamned game!!

    “You may not be bigoted of my bigotry! It’s an affront to my principles! It’s unfair and a violation of my rights! You must respect my bigotry, in order to be inclusive! Otherwise, I will howl oppression! And I will find some wimpy-ass centrist authority to back me up in my bigotry and defend me from your vicious attacks of tolerance, you aggressor ,so fuck off!”

    Fuckers, all of them. I’m so tired of the up-is-down spin from bigots. I ain’t buying it.

  23. 23
    Origuy says:

    Isinbayeva is getting pushback from some of the other athletes.

    Yelena Isinbayeva’s role as a Youth Olympics ambassador should be reviewed says British heptathlete Louise Hazel after the world pole vault champion spoke out against homosexuality.

    A Russian-American friend of mine is posting links to Wikipedia entries of famous gay Russian on Facebook, in English and Russian. So far he’s listed Tchaikovsky and Kolmogorov, the mathematician who did a lot of work on probability. He claims doing this is a violation of Russian law.

  24. 24
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    @fuckwit: I don’t think the Russians needed to learn this from anyone.

  25. 25
    Interrobang says:

    The IOC are the same folks who said that women can’t be ski jumpers (despite the fact that female ski jumpers in other events regularly outperform the men) because it might shake our uteruses loose (no, seriously).

    Given that misogyny and homophobia are basically the same thing, why and how did anybody honestly expect them to be any better on gay rights? People who are seriously making the argument that women shouldn’t compete in a sport because it “isn’t medically appropriate” haven’t left the 19th Century yet, let alone the 20th.

  26. 26
    Roy G. says:

    Let’s send Greg Lougainis in to lead the US contingent in the opening ceremonies. Seriously.

  27. 27
    Ruckus says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass:
    Actually I think fuckwit has it exactly backwards. Our fundamentalists learned how to be shit heads from the russians, you know people like stalin. And of course there were plenty of homegrown groups to learn from in any event.

  28. 28
    James Hare says:

    If the IOC can’t be bothered to do the right thing, no one should watch the games. If the IOC won’t live up to its charter the games are meaningless anyway. Unless the games are moved or Russia changes its stance, I’m not watching and I LOVE the Winter Olympics. I will not watch the Sochi games as-is. Something has to change and it has to change before the games begin. Otherwise I’ll watch snowboarding videos and studiously avoid the games. I will not be a supporter of anti-gay hatred in even that tiny way.

  29. 29
    karen says:


    My grandparents were driven out of Lithuania (which at the time was Russia/Poland) because of pogroms.

  30. 30
    fuckwit says:

    @Ruckus: No, this particular strain of up-is-down-ism is a fundamentalist thing, and I first saw it in American Christian and then Islamic religious fundamentalists (and now the Catholic Church is in on the act too). I don’t recall Stalin defending his intolerance as a fundamental freedom and then playing the victim when people tried to call him on it, but maybe I missed something.

    What I’m talking about is specifically, people claiming that their bigotry must be protected and tolerated, and that anyone of their VICTIMS who challenges it is unfairly oppressing their poor freedom. If you can point me to where the Russians have pulled this stunt in the Soviet era or earlier, I’d be interested to learn, but it seems to me something they picked up from our religious fundamentalists here or perhaps their own homegrown Muslim fundamentalists.

  31. 31
    Geeno says:

    I think it needs to be made an issue, and I am certain there is an Olympian willing to do so. That’s the only reason I’ll pay any attention at all. Russia may even threaten to arrest them, but if they do the “Civil Rights” thing and just let them arrest them, shit will hit fans.

  32. 32
    Emerald says:


    What would the IOC do if, say, the entire US, British, and French delegations carried rainbow flags in the opening ceremonies/ Disqualify them? Somehow i doubt it.

    This. Absolutely. And let the American team vote for Johnny Weir to carry the flag in the opening ceremonies.

    And everybody who is willing to take the risk, not just the US, Brits and French–the Belgians have had street demonstrations over this–and no doubt other countries feel the same–carry a damned rainbow flag and wave it. The law applies to anyone who supports gay “propaganda.” Visitors could wear pink triangles.

    Yeah, let’s just watch the IOC disqualify the majority of those teams. Let’s see Russia arrest several thousand visitors. Their Olympics will be over before they begin.

    If enough athletes and visitors have the guts to stand up, no way will the IOC or the Russians carry out their threats. Putin has as much riding on these Olympics as Hitler did. (For once, Godwin doesn’t apply. This situation really is the same.)

  33. 33
    Citizen_X says:

    FDR refused to host him at the White House for fear of losing the Southern vote in the upcoming election

    Proud of your hero now, Roosebots? WORSE THAN HOOVER!

  34. 34
    LAC says:

    @srv: just because you get winded getting out of a chair doesn’t mean that the Olympics deserves your bitterness.

  35. 35
    MAJeff says:

    The IOC is quite clear: They can be bought, or at least rented.

    Indeed, money is the only thing the IOC believes in.

  36. 36
    gratuitous says:

    For folks disgusted by Isinbayeva’s comments, and you should be, I believe that’s exactly the reaction much of the rest of the world has to much of the United States’ rationalization of its reprehensible behavior (signature drone strikes, double taps, torture, etc.) around the globe.

    No, one is not the same as the other, but the revulsion experienced by decent people around the world is.

  37. 37
    I Heart Breitbartbees says:

    @LAC: To quote JC, “eat hot death.” I consider anger over Russia’s complete violation of the IOC charter and the IOC’s craven behavior not only an excuse, but a reason to be angry and bitter at the IOC and boycott their mass consumer product. I agree with SRV’s stance. You may like seeing athletes disqualified for showing the courage of American athletes in 1968 during the worst of our Civil Rights struggles in the US. That’s your right, just as it’s my right to say you are a festering boil on the ass of humanity.

  38. 38
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @gratuitous: Shut up. This isn’t about your pet issue.

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